In a lawless, post-apocalyptic Australian outback, the remaining shards of humanity fight to survive, often coming into conflict over scarce resources. If that sounds a bit like “The Road Warrior,” it should, both in the coveted use of vehicles as an extension of one’s machismo and the dearth of precious petrol, but what transpires in “The Rover” is less baroque and more intimate and rooted in the now. In fact, it feels strangely more akin to John Hillcoat’s “The Proposition,” which took place nearly a century and a half ago, and fittingly enough the star of that macabre outback western, Guy Pearce, pops up here again, finding himself back in a vast deserted wasteland punctuated with sparse outposts of human occupation trying to cling to civility in an otherwise orderless nowhere.
Pearce plays the barely named Eric, an aloof loner with an ostensible military background. The film opens with the tacit protagonist making a pit stop at an isolated karaoke bar (which looks more like a grimy torture chamber from a “Saw” movie than a place of merriment) for some water and a bite when a speeding truck laden with unsavory lads crashes, and its occupants quickly disembark and carjack Eric’s sleek, lean coupe. That’s it – from there on out, Eric will stop at nothing to reclaim his car. It’s a straight-up one-noter like “Duel,” propelled by Eric’s simmering resolve and the ever pungent question as to what else has to be in that car to make Eric want it that bad. Continue reading
Old bait-and-switch tactics, some solid acting and impressive technical craftsmanship – especially on a $3 million budget – define William Eubank’s sophomore effort. The eerie mystery-cum-sci-fi thriller “The Signal” begins promisingly too, but great assets don’t always play together well, and in this case the fantastic foreplay and moodiness just can’t carry through to the climax.
The hook has three computer nerds on a cross-country trip to take the lone female, Hayley (Olivia Cooke of “Bates Hotel”) to a California tech school. One of the guys, Nic (Brenton Thwaites, most recently in “Maleficent”) is her beau and on crutches, the result of some sort of poorly explained disease or condition. The relationship is strained, not only because of looming long distance and physical barriers but because Hayley is defecting from MIT, where Nic and Jonah (Beau Knapp) remain. The two lads are also engaged in a hacking war with an online entity known as Nomad. Nomad’s bona fide; he can hack into a security cam and send the trio a pic of their dusty station wagon as it heads through the plains, or take over one of their laptops. Finally, the two get a bead on Nomad somewhere in Nevada and they decide to take a detour. It’s also where the boldness of “The Signal” starts to fade. Continue reading
Say what you will about Tom Cruise the human, but up on screen the guy is a bona fide movie star. No question, no debate. Go back to “Risky Business,” “Top Gun” or “Rain Man” and the seeds of it were always there, and let’s not forget too that the man has cast flashes of thespian brilliance. I’ll cite “Magnolia” and “Born on the Fourth of July” and throw in “Tropic Thunder,” not only because his performance was so outright hilarious and poetically self-deprecating, but was also a gonzo reach that required balls. Thomas Cruise Mapother IV has done it all, lost it with Shelly Long and raised and reshaped the “Mission Impossible” TV series into a box office ringing machine marching into its fifth campaign and now hanging tight in the sci-fi genre. It’s not a new thing, mind you – just dial back to the earlier part of the century when he made a pair of aces with Steven Spielberg (”War of the Worlds” and “Minority Report”). The pleaser he notched last summer with “Oblivion” also served as an ominous and unintentional foreshadowing of things to come in “Edge of Tomorrow.”
Besides being set in a harsh future where the threads of humanity claw and scrape to hang on, the two films boast multiple Toms. In “Oblivion” his Jack Harper is one of two human agents on a toxic Earth running seawater siphons to feed the rest of humanity on a housing platform in the near atmosphere (there’s more to it than that, and it’s a worthy watch) before coming shockingly face to face with another Jack Harper. In “Tomorrow,” Cruise is Major Cage, a cocksure military PR man who gets placed frontline in the battle against an invading alien species sweeping through Europe and poised to eradicate all of mankind – and he can rise from the dead. Cage can’t stomach the sight of blood and has never seen combat, but he gets demoted to private and injected into a troop of misfits as presumed fodder for the invading Mimics, which look like giant angry dust bunnies with metallic tentacles and a lion-like mug, when they take the beaches of Normandy. That presumption proves correct – initially – but after Cage gets laid to waste by an angry Alpha Mimic, he’s somehow imbued with the ability to pop back to life 24 hours before his expiration, or something like that. Continue reading